Mr. D’s Heavenly Fried Chicken
I am known in my family as the one with the nose for sniffing out good eateries. Whether it’s a sixth sense or just sheer intuition, I have some sort of food-driven GPS that navigates me through foreign cities towards my next great meal.
The nose kicked in on Highway ’61, in the middle-of-nowhere “town” that is Lorman, Mississippi. In all fairness, I didn’t even know there would be food inside the ramshackle building we pulled up to—but I was desperate for something cold to drink and the sign outside said “Old Country Store,” so I begged Justin for a break. “What is this place?” he asked, as we pulled off our helmets that were turning into convection ovens in the 100 degree heat. “I need a break” I panted, as I turned to stumble up the creaky wooden steps, not even sure that Justin would follow.
The gates of heaven
I went in expecting a store, but the doors opened to a sign reading “Mr. D’s Buffet. Please Wash Your Hands Before Eating. Please Eat All You Take.” The place was empty, except for a man in a red apron watching the news on an old television. The main room was lined with shelves of dusty stuffed animals, books, and other tchotchkes, making it look more like a flea market than a restaurant. I think Justin was still unsure of what we were doing there when I proclaimed that I was going to sit down and eat. “Really?” he asked in disbelief, “Here?”
If I could go back in time, I would apologize to Mr. Arthur Davis, the man in the red apron in front of the telly who is the man behind the Old Country Store. Our brains were a little boggled from the midday heat, and when we just step off the bike we are barely capable of conversation and politeness. We had no idea that his food was so renowned, and that people have made pilgrimage from as far as Canada just to get a taste of what is known as “the World’s Best Fried Chicken.” We must have seemed so boorish: me all red-faced and sweaty, standing with my cafeteria plate in hand considering the buffet while Justin looked on suspiciously. “Ya’ll know there’s no sharing,” Mr. D said as we took a seat at the nearest table.
“Don’t worry, I’m not sharing with him,” I replied as I took my first bite of fried chicken. And I meant it. I don’t even really like chicken, but I had never tasted anything like the drumstick I held in my hand. Justin was still wary.
“How is it?”
He watched me “mmmmmm” over my food a little longer before the curiosity got the best of him. “That’s it,” he resigned, and stood up to get his own plate. I also recommended the collard greens, which he’s never had, that were perfectly made with a little bit of ham hock in them. There were all sorts of southern delights—potato salad, mac n’ cheese, dirty rice, corn bread, baked beans, and sweet tea (which I admit I love, though I have to halve it with unsweetened). Even Justin declared that it was the best fried chicken he had ever had in his life, and we wondered how Mr. D did it.
As our tummies grew happy and our spirits returned to us, we began to fully take in our surroundings. Among the dusty tchotchkes were letters of thanks and praise, paintings devoted to the Old Country Store, and newspaper articles lauding its fare. Even the Food Network’s Alton Brown stopped in and deemed it the World’s Best Fried Chicken.
I regret that we didn’t get to hear Mr. D sing his “Cornbread” song but then again, it might have been strange to serenade only two people. We now know that for it to be so empty is a rarity, and feel especially privileged that we had the entire place to ourselves.
This plate requires full concentration
New and ancient business cards adorn the walls
Over by the bathrooms . . .
The 130 year old building that is the “Old Country Store”